Thursday, March 27, 2008

Worship Matters

I stumbled across Bob Kauflin's blog Worship Matters before. In response to my email about worship last week, one of our current worship directors at BCC brought the following blog post to my attention:

This past Sunday I had the privilege of speaking at Solid Rock Church, the Sovereign Grace church in Riverdale, Maryland, not far from where I live. I spoke on Ephesians 5:15-21

[15]Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, [16]making the
best use of the time, because the days are evil. [17]Therefore do not be
foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. [18]And do not get drunk
with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, [19]addressing
one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody
to the Lord with your heart, [20]giving thanks always and for everything to God
the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, [21]submitting to one another
out of reverence for Christ. (ESV)

and called the message, “Spirit-filled Singing.” I shared six characteristics of singing that are a result of being filled with the Spirit.

My first point was “Spirit-filled singing is to each other,” and based on Ephesians 5:19 where Paul says we’re “addressing one another.” You’d think in a passage about singing praise to God that Paul would begin with God. He doesn’t. The first focus of our singing Paul mentions is not God, but one another. Colossians 3:16 fills this idea out and says that we’re “teaching and admonishing one another.” This shows us that one of the primary aims of corporate worship is meant to be building each other up, not simply having our own personal encounter with God.

Ways We Can Address One Another When We Sing
How do we “address one another” when we sing? I can think of a number of ways. As we all sing at the same time, we’re hearing those around us proclaim biblical truth and our response to it. We’re being taught and admonished by our brothers and sisters to trust the God of Scripture and the only Savior.

Songs like “You Are Holy” have the men alternating lines with the women. Other songs are in a call and response format, where the leader sings a line and the congregation responds.

Listening to a soloist is another way we can address one another as we sing. Solos don’t have to be “performances.” When the vocalist’s motives and gestures are Christ-exalting and natural, our hearts can be inspired and instructed as we listen to some else’s Spirit-filled singing.

Practices that Hinder Horizontal Awareness in Worship
Over the years, most of us have developed a few practices that can hinder any benefit we might receive from addressing one another as we sing.

1. Singing songs that lack biblical substance or doctrinal depth. If the songs we’re singing are primarily subjective, and focused on how we feel, what we’re doing, or some other subjective element, we’re not going to have much to say to each other.

2. Thinking that “worship” means closing my eyes, raising my hands, and blocking out everyone else around me. I’ve had many profound moments like that, as I’ve focused in an undistracted way on the words I’m singing and the Savior I’m singing to. But being Spirit-filled should actually make us more aware of others, not less. Many of the songs we sing aren’t even directed towards God. "Crown Him with Many Crowns", "Before the Throne of God Above", and "Amazing Grace" are a few that come to mind. So when I lead I probably have my eyes open more than half the time. I’m looking around, addressing others, celebrating the fact that we can glory in Jesus Christ together. I do that even when I’m not leading, sometimes turning to someone beside me to rejoice in God’s grace. I want to benefit from the fact that I’m with the people of God.

3. Singing alone. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with praising God on my own. But in the age of iPods, earphones, and Internet downloads, it’s easy to lose our appreciation for singing with the church. The Spirit intends us to join our hearts to each other as well as to Christ when we sing.

After I preached the message this past Sunday, I wanted to apply the message in a memorable way. So I had everyone stand up and told them we were going to sing "Amazing Grace" a cappella. Only I didn’t want anyone closing their eyes. I wanted people to look around the room as they sang, rejoicing at God’s mercy in each other’s lives. It was a little awkward at first, but eventually we were singing with all our hearts, unashamedly “addressing one another” in song, reminding ourselves of how amazing God’s grace truly is, to save wretches like us.

So next time you lead or worship God with your church, don’t stop at asking the Lord to “open the eyes of your heart.” Ask him to open your eyes in your head, too.

Bob Kauflin
Worship Pastor/ Director, Covenant Life Church , Gaithersburg , MD

I must admit: I work hard at achieving #2 in that list of hindrances to "horizontal awareness." Pursuing tunnel vision on God keeps me focused on Him and not others. Maybe it's because of all the judging and assuming I do when I look around at other people. (Kind of like Joy was talking about in the blog that started all this posting!)

So---it's not about me, huh? You mean, when I worship with others, I have to really see them, hear them, be vulnerable with them?

So here I go, exploring another long-held assumption which God is shifting closer to His truth. . .


mandy said...

amen... i LOVE this post. when i lead worship, i spend most of my "singing" time scanning the congregation... i make sure to LOOK at them. every corner. every row. every face....

its a connection. its a way we can spur one another on. its leading by example.

thanks for mentioning this article!

betsy said...

so put this wherever it goes in your collection... but sometimes I show up and sing in the choir and i don't really want to. I call it, "act of the will worship". I'm there because I know that:

1. I have good enough pitch/voice to sing in a choir
2. they need solid voices in the choir
3. the choir makes a difference. (2 Chron. 5:13)
4. we have a kick-ass choir so it will be a positive musical experience.

However, the main reason that I show up and sing (whether I want to or not) is that 5. it makes a difference in my children's lives. Being part of something important isn't always based on how I feel. And "singing" is important. Giving thanks and praise to God with one voice, fills the temple with a cloud. (see Chron. ref above) When I sing with the choir I am modeling that we get to be a part of that process. I am showing them that some of us are called to specific places. (and for another comment, it happens under authority and with trained musicians.)

When they see me choose to play the kind of music that reorients my mind, they take note. (I'm not by any means exclusive to Christian music in my musical choices - I listen to everything, but there are times when what I HAVE to do is choose worship.) When they see me choose the choir even when I'm climbing over challenges, they notice. When I choose worship, they choose worship.

One of the cool things about singing in the choir is getting to watch corporate worship. It causes shift. the truth is I usually arrive not wanting to be there, but the first song out, when I am part of the invocation of the presence of God, my heart and my mind change.

Here's a quote for you from an article on choirs:

"Choirs are meant to animate worship, not distract from it. Choirs are, in the Bible and in all serious Christian liturgical theology, the voice of the people. They belong with the people, therefore, in the architecture of the church."

September 30, 2003 AM
By Rev. Dr. Robert S. Rayburn
From: Biblical Worship "The Choir"

Joshua said...


This is amazing. I've been thinking about this a bit. I'm glad to get this perspective on congregational worship. I have much to learn... thanks for the help along the way.

Brittany A said...

As a fellow worship leading person...I say THANK YOU for this!!

Brittany A said...

last night, I couldn't sleep due to coffee, so I was up until 3am. God spoke to me in those hours. I knew that this morning at church, the kids would want to have worship. Garrett's flying home, he's our worship leader, so he wouldn't be there to do it. Garrett had mentioned before that he thought I could do it, with the help of a guitar playing person, and I kind of dismissed, I can't do that. Well, God spoke last night...this morning...saying...I want you to lead worship at church tomorrow. So, I got the songs printed out, I got to church, and God made it all fall into place. He put a verse on my heart to read and He gave me a "Chris" to play guitar and be the "man" voice. I just want to give God praise for having you post this, because it has provoked thoughts and questions in me that have helped me "be brave" in leading worship and draw near to God and encourage the students to draw near to Him as well.
I love ya!